Education and the best-laid plans

Does anyone remember the days when things slowed down in summer and the sunny, longer days seemed to lead like a cobbled path to fun, warm evenings and each dawn brought the promise of something exciting and new?

Neither do I.

I’ve been in the media biz longer than most of the people playing in the British Open this week have been alive and for the entirety of that time people have talked about “the good old days” which I seemed to miss completely, insofar as work goes.

Oh well. All of which is my whiny way of saying I’ve never been busier, my industry has never faced more titanic change and I’m really looking forward to a vacation. Which, with luck, will start after today.

So let’s hit the tape with our arms over our heads at full stride shall we? Some short snappers . . . Continue reading

Anti-social media

I think I am nearing the end of my tether with Facebook. I don’t think I’m alone.

In terms of accounts and users and yes, profits, Facebook is the king of the social media hill. We all stampeded there years ago for different reasons and have been trading vacation pictures, grad pictures, grandchildren pictures and more ever since.

And the whole while Facebook has been penning us in to its commercialized boxes, bombarding us with advertising – really, have you ever ONCE clicked on a Facebook display ad? Really? – and promoted games and apps and uselessness.

Then recently we learned that Facebook was deliberately screwing with us – or trying to – by displaying or withholding certain things from our news feeds in a social experiment to manipulate users. Many we surprised. I wasn’t and I’m sure it’s just the tip of a rather nasty iceberg.

Because when it comes to free stuff like Facebook and Twitter and others, here’s what you need to know: If the product is free, it is not a product. You are the product and the consumer is the thing you’re logging on to. It consumes you and sells you and your data and visits to advertisers.

Quid pro quo. Continue reading

Take me out to the ball game

The MLB all star game is tonight, which means the home run derby was last night. I watched some of the slug fest while cooking dinner for Pad, making today’s lunch for Pad, and doing dishes related to all of the above.

Boring reporter recollection: in 1991 – yes, it’s hard to believe I was old enough to work then – I was sent down to Toronto from Ottawa as part of the coverage team for the all star game.

I was there to cover the Baseball Summit – Brian Mulroney was hosting George H.W. Bush at the game and I was there to write about any story that might present itself as news. Nothing did – at least nothing I can recall off the top of my head, although I am sure I wrote something to justify the trip.

I have some clear recollections of the evening, though. Continue reading

Taking a shot at why we suck at soccer

Technically, the doldrums is a nautical term that describes unique pockets of dead air in the Atlantic and Pacific near the equator. Wooden sailing ships would basically be left to drift by the doldrums and the phenomenon is well documented in journals and literature.

Closer to home, the doldrums is what happens when I have nothing to say. Sorry about that – I’m not much of a loyal correspondent. Our home has entered the familiar beat of summer with Laura and Chris bolting for the East Coast leaving me to stand in the kitchen and hurl chunks of raw meat at Pad several times a day.

We have watched soccer, tennis, golf and baseball to pass those parts of the evening not consumed with preparation of meals and lunches to keep him fueled. After several summers of doing nothing but train, the economic realities of full-time studies are staring Pad in the face and scholarships notwithstanding he has wisely decided to earn some dough.

On that score, I give him enormous credit – working for a landscaping firm six days a week, 10 or 11 hours a day, plus teaching at a hockey school three evenings a week after that, plus hitting the gym/ice four times a week after all that. Continue reading

The hottest ticket in town

It was the hottest ticket in Oakville. Literally.

It was with a bang, not a whimper, that Christopher and his Abbey Park High School cohort of mostly 1996-born students crossed the stage at Glen Abbey Rec Centre last night and took the first steps away from what was and toward what will be.

As you might imagine if you live here, the rink was hot and humid and while the school did a terrific job of converting the venue into a convocation hall there was nothing to be done about the heat. There were a limited number of floor seats for parents and guests and by the time we arrived 30 minutes early, they were gone.

So we — and the vast majority of others — were up in the stands in the hottest seats in the building. No matter. None of us would have missed it for anything. Continue reading

The blink of an eye

“. . . for me one thing stands above all as a barometer of his character.

And that’s the quality of the young men and women who are his friends. Friends like his – whether in the rink, the gym or the classroom – will help pick you up on bad days and celebrate your good ones.

We’re proud of him and we’re proud of them all. Here’s to great years of health, opportunity and prosperity for all of them.”

– Teamoakville, June 29, 2011 on the occasion of my first son’s high school graduation

On Friday night Laura and I were standing in a field next to a church on Dundas Street, just west of the Sixteen Mile Sport Complex.

The annual Relay for Life fundraiser to raise money to fight cancer was just getting rolling and Chris and two of his friends were on hand to be part of the entertainment for people who planned to spend the next 24 hours walking and running to raise money.

It wasn’t what you would call Woodstock, but as the appointed hour drew closer more and more people showed up, not to mention a bunch of kids from Abbey Park who, as they always do for each other, came just to support their friends. First some; then more.

There was a real stage set up, about four and half feet above the ground. Laura walked around and took pictures, which anyone who knows us and her knows that that is what she does. I sat in a chair near the front and watched the trio and in spite of myself I couldn’t help but reflect on all that was and all that is.

Chris and his friends will graduate from high school on Thursday night in a ritual that is remarkable only to those who are directly involved but to those of us who are on that list, it still feels like a pretty big day.

Somewhere between their cover of the Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know” and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” it occurred to me that those words I wrote almost exactly three years ago are true again today. As a parent, few things could make us prouder. Continue reading

The wayback machine: recalling heroes

As a sports fan I’ve spent my entire life in fascination of the men and women who excel at the highest levels of athletics.

It doesn’t always mean I was a big fan of their particular sport, if just means I respect the accomplishment and achievement of people who could do things most of us can’t.

For example, I’m a moderate baseball fan – as a kid the Cincinnati Reds were my team and the 1975 World Series against the Red Sox will live in my consciousness forever. It was pure theatre. Bench, Perez, Morgan, Rose, Conception, Foster, Griffey, Geronimo. I’ll never forget that season and those guys were all heroes.

Occasionally as a journalist, life as a sports fan – which remember, is short for fanatic – intersected with work. Rarely in my case, as I was mostly a political hack, but it did happen a couple of times.

I am put in mind of that this morning because of the death this week of baseball hall of famer, Tony Gwynn. Rarely has the passing of an athlete, or any celebrity for that matter, been as universally mourned by fans and media as the loss of a genuinely good man in every way. I have not heard a bad word about the guy. Continue reading

Back to the rat race, now with more rat

So, perhaps this is why they call it a rat race.

With Laura back from the west and Pad working the landscaping gig, we needed a new protocol for making sure people who need a car have one and people who don’t need a car but need a ride (me) can be accommodated.

I have been taking the bus to the GO station on an as-needed basis but when Laura was away I had a car, Pad had a car … it worked out.

Anyway, he has to be to work for 7a, so he dropped me at the GO at 655a this morning and that worked fine until I realized that Chris had my Presto pass, which I lent to him for his trip to the city Saturday for the Canada-Scotland rugby game.

No big deal. The highlight of the morning was yet to come. Continue reading

A shrug and an election

Ontario has elected a new government – albeit one that will be led by the same premier we had this time last week. I use the word “new” in a technical sense.

I have watched a lot of elections in my life and participated in more than a few as a reporter, editor or filling some other role in the coverage machine. I cannot recall an election that seemed, to me at least, to have captured less public interest and generated less excitement beyond the usual partisans.

The incumbent Liberals verily groaned under the weight of carrying 10 years of governing baggage. E-health. Gas plant cancellations. Ornge. Tax increases. The list is long as it is for any government after a decade in office. If you were so inclined, there was a lot there not to like, but Premier Wynne proved to be an impressive candidate and people liked her personally.

The alternatives? Conservative Leader Tim Hudak branded himself with a promise to cut 100,000 public sector jobs inciting the collective wrath of teachers, police, fire service, and others. One wonders if that was a good idea. He promised to create a million jobs in eight years in the private sector, a plan that got a lot of derisive coverage in the media, some of it quite unfair, frankly. Those who know him say he is as nice a man as you can meet, but that personality never shone through. Mostly, it seemed no one was listening.

The NDP’s Andrea Horwath never seemed to get herself positioned as a viable alternative to govern the province and she ended up pretty much right where she was before the election.

So what did voters do? Continue reading

Stop reading. Go vote.

Well, finish reading, then go vote.

Ontario is having an election today and truly, anything could happen. None of the above, vote splitting, strategic voting, and other pop-political junk will get chewed over and debated while dummies like me and you go and mark a ballot.

But that’s the key first step. You actually have to vote. It’s beyond my capacity to reason to understand why anyone eligible to vote would ignore that opportunity. Quite literally, blood has been spilled to protect our democracy and ensure the right of the people to change the government without violence.

You don’t have to twirl around the intertubes or all-news television very far to understand that’s something special, yet in the last Ontario election fewer than 50 per cent of the eligible voters bothered to mark a ballot.

So, go vote. Continue reading


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